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See the sky like never before

 

It can feel like a real chore getting active in the evenings throughout winter. With the dark evenings, all too often we find ourselves collapsing in front of the TV as soon as we get home from work. But as Earth Hour fast approaches why not get out in nature? Darkness can be a source of inspiration too, if you look in the right places!

Look up at the night sky on your way home from work or school, and you’re unlikely to pick out more than a handful of stars in amongst the glow of light polluted cities. Due to thousands of artificial light sources, the beauty of the night sky is hidden behind the fuzzy glow.

Forestry Commission England woods and forests are great places to escape from this. Many of their sites boast Dark Sky or Milky Way status and awards, which means you get a truly magnificent view of the stars above you.

Forest starsForest stars © Forest Commission

But where to start? It can be a little daunting breaking the routine and heading out into the woods with no direction. That’s why Forestry Commission England have put together a handy Beginner’s Guide to Stargazing for this year’s Earth Hour with top tips and constellations to spot. They’ve also developed a brilliant interactive map, so you can find where the best forests are for clear night skies.

If you’re anything like us, you’ll want to capture your experience to share it with your friends on Instagram and Facebook. Check out some top tips for getting the best night sky photo, and share it with #ForestStar and #EarthHourUK.

If you’re looking for inspiration for where to go, here are Forestry Commission England’s top picks for making sure you get a great view of the stars:

Dalby Forest (Yorkshire)

Yorkshire’s Dalby Forest was awarded the Milky Way Class of the Dark Sky Discovery award in January 2013. That puts it amongst the top sites in the country for seeing the beauty of the sky above you.

Why not join Scarborough & Ryedale’s Astronomical Society for free public stargazing sessions (no prior knowledge required) for a real flavour of the skies.

Queen Elizabeth Country Park (South)

Grab your coat and head up to Butser Hill in Queen Elizabeth Country Park to view the night sky like you’ve never seen it before. Butser Hill boasts the highest observing point in Hampshire, so it is a pretty magnificent place to view the night sky all year round.

Gisburn Forest (North)

Gisburn Forest is Dark Sky Discovery Site and is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. You’re not going to be troubled by light pollution here!

With meteor showers and views of the Milky Way commonly seen here, this is a forest you’ll want to visit again and again!

Hamsterley Forest (North)

Hamsterley Forest is County Durham’s largest forest located in the North Pennines AONB. The Dark Sky Site is near the start of the Riverside Trail located by the bridge.

Hamsterley is one of many Forestry Commission England sites to host a ‘Why Stars Matter’ trail in the early months of 2017. These fantastic family trails help you learn about the stars above you, and their significance to your life.

Kielder Forest and Observatory (North)

Kielder Forest joins with Northumberland National Park to form part of England’s first and only Official Dark Sky Park, making it England’s top forest location for stargazing.

Their world renowned observatory gives stargazers a unique perspective on the wonders of space. Make sure to book well in advance – this is a real stargazer favourite.

Want to know more?

For more information, and to find out about Forestry Commission England & WWF Earth Hour events head to www.forestry.gov.uk/stargazing Or to find out about Earth Hour and a stargazing event near you go to

Written in association with BBC Sky at Night Magazine

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